I love Oman for the sheer variety of landscapes and things to do. It has spectacular mountains, stunning canyons, wild deserts and a beautiful coastline. For first timers to Oman, a circuit from Muscat of the Jebel Akhdar mountains, Wahiba Sands and beautiful coast makes for a perfect 10-day tour. For those returning to the country and those with a little more time the fjord like coastline of the Musandam Peninsula and the southern province of Salalah are great additions to the tour. Oman has a well maintained and expansive road network so our favourite way to visit the country is on a self-drive holiday. Highlights of Oman include:
- Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque – one of the largest mosques in the world and a beautiful example of Islamic architecture.
- The four forts of Nizwa, Bahla (UNESCO-listed), Izki and Rustiq.
- Muscat Souk and the Friday cattle market in Nizwa.
- Hiking the Balcony Walk in the Jebel Akhdar.
- Visiting the Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve.
- Spending a night in a desert camp in Wahiba Sands with a morning walk in the dunes.
- Snorkelling or diving in the Daymanyat Islands.
- The Empty Quarter – the largest sand desert in the world.
- Cruising in a dhow along the coast of the Musandam Peninsula.
Some of the most thrilling walking in the Middle East is available in Oman. Multi-day routes have yet to properly emerge but there are some fabulous day walks in the craggy Hajar mountains, through wadis and along the coast. Our favourite walk in Oman is the Balcony Walk, a trail running from a tiny mountain village along a path on the very edge of the canyon to a now deserted village under the overhang of a cliff face. It is clearly marked and you need a reasonable head for heights but the views are well worth the effort. As are the inquisitive mountain goats you will meet on the trail. Elsewhere on the Saiq Plateau you can walk on winding trails through mountain villages. And if you visit at the right time of year you can walk from village to village through the rose plantations growing the roses for the rosewater used in middle eastern cooking. It is an incongruous sight, delicate English looking roses against a backdrop of craggy mountains and village minarets. And if you choose to spend some time in Wahiba Sands a walk from your camp in the dunes is a must. If you take a guide then you won’t get lost! There are some lovely boutique hotels close to the walking and, whilst it is possible to walk without a guide, (if you are happy to drive yourself around and are feeling a little adventurous), an experienced guide will help you make the most out of your walking. One of the hotels on the Saiq Plateau even has a rock climbing wall and via ferrata for you to try.
Snorkelling in Oman is great and you stand a good chance of seeing not only beautiful tropical fish but also turtles. Most of the coastal waters remain unspoilt with healthy coral gardens and a few wrecks. Diving is also good here and it is possible to go diving from Muscat. The beautiful Daymaniyat islands are a day trip’s distance from Muscta. If you have time on your hands then include the Musandam Peninsula in your trip which has perhaps the best diving in the country – as well as staggeringly beautiful fjords.
For a glimpse of a traditional Omani way of life a visit to some of the picturesque mountain visits is a must. Some villages are situated on steep mountainsides in a small valley and form an oasis of market gardening in an otherwise lucky landscape. You will see original mud houses as well as the traditional fall water irrigation system. Other villages are in the middle of date plantations and you can visit a living museum showcasing the traditional way of life. At the right time of year a visit to the rose growing villages on the Saiq plateau is a must. The roses are grown to distil the rosewater used in much middle eastern cooking and it’s a strange feeling wandering past gardens of damask roses with a mosque minaret in the background.
Oman is home to two vast and beautiful deserts full of rolling sand dunes. The first, and more accessible of the two, is just a few hours drive from Muscat. There are plenty of desert camps where you can spend the night in a Bedouin tent (albeit one with air conditioning if you wish!) and stroll out into the never ending sand dunes and of course ride a camel. Pick the right camp and you can still feel the utter isolation and peace of the desert. In the southern part of Oman called Dhofar you will find the Empty Quarter with pristine sand dunes stretching for hundred of kilometres into Yemen. This desert is not full of desert camps. So you will need to visit on either day trip from Salalah or on an organised accompanied overnight trip with a guide.
You can see as much history and culture as you like in Oman. Headline sights include the Sultan Al Qaboos Mosque in Muscat with its dazzling marble and tiling and the sand coloured mighty fort at Nizwa. Travel a little further afield and you can visit Bronze Age beehive tombs and a number of other forts.
You will definitely see goats. My recollection is they are everywhere in the mountains – one even followed us on a two hour walk and we had to drive him back to his village at the end! But you may also see the Arabian Oryx with its distinctively long sweeping horns. And in the desert camels wander freely nibbling at tiny pieces of shrub. At sea you may glimpse dolphins and the occasional whale. But if you visit the Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve you will have the chance, depending on the time of year, to sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach or hatchlings making their first trip out to sea.
from £2700 per person
Oman in Style
from £5795 per person
Short break in Muscat
from £1455 per person
Luxury Muscat & Musandam peninsula
From £10595 pp
Oman taster tour
Group Walking Tour
from £2640 (excl flights)
You will need to obtain an e-visa before you travel online from the Royal Oman Police. For the latest on entry requirements visit the FCDO Oman pages
Ensure your usual vaccinations are up to date and check here for advisory vaccinations.
Women should dress modestly in public areas like shopping malls. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible. You should not wear swimming attire in public areas, except on tourist beaches or at swimming pools. Women wearing shorts, or tight-fitting clothes, are likely to attract attention.